Never Buy Flowers For a Married Woman
Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner / Unsplash

Never Buy Flowers For a Married Woman

This and many other important lessons my dad taught me.

It was the day before Valentine's Day, and I called my father to brag that I got his wife, my mom, two dozen red roses. I told him they were going to be delivered tomorrow. I was flying to Arizona the day after Valentine's Day. I wanted to avoid hearing my mother talk about how everyone under the sun got her beautiful roses, but it was a waste of money. Then, she would tell me she was glad I did not get them for her.

However, ten minutes later, she would keep returning to the point that my brother or her nephew had given her flowers, but they should have kept their money and given her a card instead.

I had heard this story too many times, so I purchased her two dozen roses at the start of the year when the prices were normal or as normal as they can be for delivered flowers.

My father received this message twice a year for over 60 years. This year, he got her a card.

When I called my old man to brag about what I had done, his mind went to work. At this late stage, my father taught me another lesson I will never forget: don’t buy another man’s wife flowers.

Related: The 7 Absolute Worse Ways To Celebrate Valentine's Day, Ranked

My dad is in his mid-to-late 80s. As he sits in his cream-colored Lazy-Boy, watching a black-and-white Western movie that defined his youth, you feel an air of contentment enveloping him. He radiates peace and calm.

My father has lived a life worth living.

He has two sons who adore him and grandchildren who constantly attempt to one-up each other to garner his attention. He had a wonderful relationship with his parents and all of his siblings.

He has traveled the world, visiting 44 countries and capturing stories from each one of his destinations. From being dared to eat a freshly killed snake in Taiwan to the sky being so black in Sowetto at dinner, you would swear it was night because everyone cooks with coal, plus the mundane travel stories everyone collects from Paris, London, and Berlin.

My father was a star high school athlete and the first person in his lineage to graduate from college. Then, he followed in his older brother’s footsteps and served our nation with honor and valor in the Air Force.

In his twilight years, he dutifully and dotingly takes care of his bride of over 60 years. He has eluded the ravages of aging, but they found a victim in my mother. Now, he cooks for her, maintains the house for her, schedules her medical appointments, takes her to get her hair done, gives her her medication, and puts her to bed each night. Then he descends the stairs, sinks into that Lazy-Boy, and watches a Western, a ball game, or MSNBC.

My dad has lived a life worth living.

He has sheltered me from the ugliness he encountered in this world. Or maybe it is him protecting himself from the violence of racism and segregation that he endured as a black man of his age in America.

His feet are permanently disfigured because his family was too poor to afford a doctor, and the doctor who treated colored folk was too far for his family to travel to.

Poverty is violence, and violence always leaves scars.

Despite his disfigurement, he could serve, unlike President Bone Spurs.

For the past 15 years, I was a 45-minute car ride from my parents. Now, I am a 7-hour door-to-door non-stop flight away from their loving embrace.

The only advantage of moving across the country is that I now stay with my parents when I visit. In the past, my visits were constrained to twice or three times a month for about three hours per visit. I saw the perfectly curated image they wanted to project.

Now, I retreat to my old room, to my old bed, and witness the two mighty titans of my youth slowed by old age.

I keep different hours than them because of jetlag and being employed. I am less of a son and more of a specter who roams through the house, barely leaving any signs that I am there. I come and bear witness, not to the veneer they present to my brother, their friends, and everyone else checking in on them. I see them not as how they want to present but as who they are. I see their frailty, frustration, and fragility.

My father’s favorite humble brag, which he would work into every conversation, was that he had two sons: a medical doctor and a lawyer. That was my father. A man who loved attending jury duty, when the question was inevitably asked if anyone was related to a doctor and then a lawyer, he would shoot his hand up both times and proclaim he was. Sometimes, the judge would incredulously ask if my father had heard the question correctly (yes, this is Arizona, and the judges were white men), and he had his response ready to go: my oldest is a medical doctor, and my other son is a lawyer, you Honor. The judge would remark with something like that is quite impressive, thank you, juror number… and my father would sit there pleased.

That humble brag has been supplanted. His favorite boast is that he has lived the longest in his family. He starts to grin when he retells how the team of doctors he sees tells him they have never seen a black man his age in such fine health in their entire careers. He makes sure that point is driven home that it is not just one doctor but all the doctors.

While other men flex their alleged wealth, my dad flexes his health on the Gram.

It is funny how you once feared your parents as they now lumber around the house, their bodies creaking.

Related: What Mike Tyson Fears Most In His 50s

In healthy relationships, you should fear your parents like the sun—something of immense power that can illuminate your path or plunge you into darkness. I have extolled the virtues of my parents. They are good parents. Even as I am about to turn 50, they have never stopped being amazing parents to my brother and me. Being a parent is a job that never ceases; I don’t think even death will keep my Mom’s love from finding and protecting me.

On the other hand, I don’t want to imagine the fear created by abusive parents.

As a father, there is nothing that my daughter could do that would ever warrant me cutting off contact with her. I would always seek to connect with her, strive to understand why she disconnected from me, and do whatever I could to repair the relationship.

For all of you who have been disconnected from your parents, it is a parent’s duty, not the child's, to repair the relationship.

I was lucky my father never quit loving me. He was a hard man, a military man, and a man who was deployed all around the world. One day, when he passes, I might finally learn what he did when he worked on a secluded floor inside the ominous-sounding Control Data building in Bloomington, MN. Until then, I can speculate.

My father, the flower thief, in all his glory.

I was blessed that my father taught me many lessons. He taught me it is ok not to be mechanically inclined. It took us 18 hours to put a gas grill together. It worked, but too many pieces remained to make us feel comfortable. Yet, this was his prized possession. He moved the grill to his new house, the first empty nest house, and then to their dream home in Arizona. He still chuckles when he thinks of the ordeal we went through putting it together, and we both know if his eldest son had been present, the job would have been completed in a couple of hours.

My father wore clip-on ties, so he did not teach me how to tie a tie. I taught him. He was not too proud to learn how to wear a tie from his 19-year-old son with dreadlocks, who had learned the art of tying ties from his RA at his rural college in Iowa.

Then, this Valentine’s Day, he taught me a lesson that I am reluctant to share because this old man proved that claims of his cognitive decline may have been tragically exaggerated.

I called my dad and told him I was sending my mother two dozen red roses. He told me he was getting her a card. Then this old man innocently asked, did you say you were getting her two dozen red roses? I replied with a smile on my face, yes, sir!

He said, great…I will take a dozen and give them to her from me and then give the other dozen from you. We laughed and talked for a couple more minutes, then got off the phone.

On Valentine’s Day, I got an alert that the roses had been delivered. About two hours later, I got a text from this old man telling me: Your mother liked the flowers we got her.

This old ass man is now trolling me. Yet, I still don’t know if he is joking and messing with me. I replied that I was glad she liked them.

Then, I flew to Arizona. I arrived at their house to find that this man was not lying. He got to the flowers first, took half for himself, and put them in a vase that looked more like a spontoon than a vase.

I was flabbergasted.

This man took half the roses I got for my mom and passed them off as his own.

He was like, you ain’t about to have me looking bad in front of my wife because I didn’t get her any flowers, and you got her two dozen. That is what you get when you buy another man’s wife flowers.

I sat there, taking it all in.

My 86-year-old father had just outwitted me, and I was ok with it. My old man still got it.

Another chapter in a life lived well.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of Garrick McFadden's work on Medium.